Sumptuous volleys, silky touches and steel: Spain’s latest vintage Roja is ready to emerge

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Spain blew Costa Rica away in their opening game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, strolling to a 7-0 win.

The warning signs are there. It was not so much tika-taka, more pitter-patter as Luis Enrique’s youthful Spain, full of exuberance and fearlessness simply ripped apart a docile Costa Rica.

Of course, it should be pointed out their opponents were more than obliging, futile in attack, lacking discipline in defence - they were as much a spectator to a passing masterclass as the tens of thousands in attendance at the Al Thumama Stadium. But to focus on their opponents neglects what Spain did offer, rather than what the Costa Ricans didn’t.

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Gavi and Pedri were balletic in the midfield, pivoting and caressing the ball across the pitch without a care in the world. The Barcelona duo are already walking in the footsteps left behind by Andres Iniesta and Xavi, and like two youthful Football Manager regens, could well become every bit as much of a success as their predecessors for clubs and country.

The young duo dovetail perfectly and apply Luis Enrique’s masterplan with such ease that their performances look like those of seasoned veterans, rather than of those making their first appearances at the tournament. Gavi’s finish for his side’s fifth goal made him the third youngest goalscorer in World Cup history and you would do well to suggest his sumptuous volley will not be his final goal at the tournament during what is already looks to be a highly-promising career.

Completing an impressive midfield trio was a link to Spain’s recent glories, with Sergio Busquets providing the steel to go with the silky touch of his younger team-mates. That is not to underplay what a clever and classy midfielder Busquets is, but he can provide something extra that others can not and that is fall back on the experience of a glittering career.

Between the three of them, and impressive displays from Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo and Carlos Soler, the win was like a death of a thousand cuts for Costa Rica, who could only watch on as the Spanish passed around them with ease, waiting for an opening that would inevitably arrive. In the red (Roja) corner, was a boxer willing to jab, jab, jab away before their opponent’s defences drop and a knockout blow is delivered with speed and precision.

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Yes, again, it must be said, Costa Rica’s pressing and energy went missing for large parts of the game - but their approach was punished by the patience and punch of a very promising performance from Spain. Without question, tougher tests lie in wait, starting with Germany on Sunday, who will no doubt be ready to show the world their shock defeat against Japan was an anomaly. And a final group stage meeting with Japan, who will surely be on six points by that point, will provide the sort of test the Germans shockingly failed earlier in the afternoon.

Neither side will be as lacklustre and obedient as Costa Rica, and time on the ball will be precious, but on this performance, the Spanish are a threat for even the best in the world. Longer slightly longer-term, this World Cup may come too soon for Enrique’s youthful squad to emerge as champions - but the foundations are in place for another vintage Roja to emerge.

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